It is the pockets of vineyards, planted on the rich and fertile slopes with remarkable deposits of the long extinct volcanos, that give the wine landscape of the Vulkanland Steiermark (Süd-Oststeiermark) its magical touch. The 1,524 hectares of vines are cultivated compactly around the wine-growing towns of Klöch, St. Anna am Aigen and Straden. The Traminer, with its enticing, highly aromatic bouquet is a regional speciality, and the majority of the wines are sold through the Buschenschank wine taverns or cellar doors.
For many centuries, the region was the centre of an ongoing borderland dispute, hence the presence of imposing castles and fortified towns sitting proudly on basalt clifftops. Of course the borders are open nowadays, and the former castles of Riegersburg, Schloss Kapfenstein and other venues offer an attractive ambience for an array of cultural and culinary events, with the local wines also playing a role.
A remarkable variety of wines are cultivated in the Vulkanland Steiermark, ranging from Welschriesling, Morillon, Weißburgunder, Grauburgunder (Pinot Blanc, Gris and Chardonnay respectively), Gelber Muskateller, all kinds of Traminer, Sauvignon Blanc and even small parcels of Riesling, along with a wealth of red wine varieties, especially Zweigelt. All the wines display a delicate mineral spice, an asset of the unique local geological conditions.
Four main wine roads link the picturesque hills and dales, and a good port of call is the vinotheque in St. Anna am Aigen, that stocks virtually all of the region's wines. There are also a wide selection of tourist attractions, including the thermal health spa resorts, located along the volcanic fault. The most significant wine-growing towns are Bad Radkersburg, Feldbach, Gleisdorf, Hartberg, Kapfenstein, Klöch, Riegersburg, St. Peter, Straden, Tieschen and Weiz.
In the north of the region, the Ringkogel vineyards near Hartberg reach a peak of 650 metres above sea level, amongst Austria's highest cultivated vines. The climate is described as illyric, meaning that the continental effects of the hot and dry Pannonian climate meet the warm and humid Mediterranean influences. The majority of the vines are cultivated on warm soils of volcanic tuffs, basalt, sand, loam and weathered schists and gneisses.
The Styrian Vulkanland is one of Austria's most unspoilt tourist destinations. Its delightful, perfectly signposted themed hiking routes, guide visitors through the magical landscape, to then perhaps make a stop at a friendly Buschenschank, to taste the local wines and regional specialities, especially the homemade Styrian pumpkin seed oil.